It used to be thought that the major source of power for managers and leaders was their position. It was his vested position that gave a manager the controls of productivity, strategy and the firm’s future. That is simply no longer the case.
Out of the thousands of books on communication in organizations, Talk, Inc. takes today’s changing world of business seriously and provides a unique perspective. As findings by Harvard's Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind reveal in their new book, Talk, Inc., leadership is fundamentally conversation-powered. Indeed, as the authors declare, conversations are the new source of organizational power.
The hard skills are easy to learn. It’s the soft skills of conversation and relationships that easily sabotage workers’ hopes for the future. And, as businesses are learning, the lack of those soft skills also sabotages strategy and the bottom line. So Groysberg and Slind’s new work is a welcome addition to every manager’s bookshelf. Indeed, the authors do something long overdue in this field: they refashion the concept of organizational communication around face-to-face conversation.
Four practical, learnable “talk” principles
As a result of extensive research in widely disparate industries and companies of all sizes, the authors discover a set of conversational principles for this new economy. There’s no one way, monologic approach to communication here. Instead, the authors find that successful leaders engage with a new social technology, comprising four concrete skills:
- Intimacy. Yep. That’s the agenda and there’s no baloney here. The crippling disease of interpersonal distance has to go out the window. It will, of course, require a great deal of trust-building to get beyond the hierarchical practices of the past.
- Interactivity. Both members in a conversation are going to have to talk and listen. This kind of social technology won’t come easy to those schooled in the presentation models of the past. I’ve been beating that drum for years and here’s the research to support the success of that principle.
- Inclusion. There’s a logical sequence of principles from intimacy to interactivity to inclusion. The consequence is what you see on the internet brought to face-to-face settings: the triumph of employee-generated content. The subtext, of course, is that in today’s complex world, no manager, no single individual has all the information necessary for success.
- Intentionality. So do you plan your conversations? Is it just “going with the flow?” Or is something else required? The big picture will be part of the conversations and it will drive the strategic alignment for everyone to make better decisions on their jobs.
Is this really new?
Aristotle implied all this stuff in his “Rhetoric,” and the twentieth century drove it home. But Talk, Inc. sets its competencies inside the organization of the 21st century. This is really new. And it’s a book every manager and employee will want.
Boris Groysberg & Michael Slind, Talk, Inc. (Boston: Harvard Business Review Press), 2012.
Flickr: by Steve Unlikely